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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

5 Steps for Preventing Information Overload

Feel burned out by constant bombardment of decisions, opinions and information?  How do you keep the flow of information from overloading your life?

In my last post, I recommended an information fast.  Stop reading or watching except when absolutely necessary, focus for 3 months on ACTION – just doing what you already know.  In the process, I think you’ll discover that “motivation is better than information” and that you can be less stressed and more productive by not letting information overload your life.

So how do you come back, but not let the information flow in your life get back to the point of overload?

1. Commit to taking in less information than before.

I know this sounds simple, but an emotional, deliberate commitment to limit your information intake is going to be necessary.  You have to choose simplicity.

My Tips: This commitment probably needs to be shared with someone in your life to make it real. It also should be accompanied by some specific actions tailored to your life. If there’s an app that used to overload you, don’t install it. Or set data limits on it.  Unsubscribe.  Avoid.  Uninstall.  Block an offending website or add it to your StayFocusd list.

2. Prioritize reading well-recommended books over social media.

There’s a reason why publishing companies are willing to spend money to put that book out there. There’s a reason why those reviews on Amazon were written.  Books are more valuable than a steady stream of everyone’s off-the-cuff opinion.

My Tips: I don’t always finish a book. 90% of the helpful content of the book is usually in the first 60% of the chapters.  Michael Hyatt says this is the dirty little secret of publishing, and I agree.  While finishing what you start is a virtue, no pressure here.  Get the value, and walk away.

3. Spend most of your time on a smaller number of trusted sources.

Ask, “Do I really need to know this?  Is this the person I should listen to?  How often is this source really helpful and life-altering?

It is impossible to overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.

My tips:  I read very few blogs & almost no magazines.  I subscribe to a few like ArtofManliness.Com and that help me stay focused and thinking, and hopefully a little bit productive. 🙂  For my marriage, I subscribe to The Generous Husband.  I subscribe to their emails, so I can read the post without ever going to their site.  (If I go to the site.I will over-read due to affliate & post links.)  Even with my favorites, if I don’t think the headline is for me, I don’t read it.

4. Tame the email beast.

Inbox Zero.

Email can soak up 1-2 of your best hours each day if you allow it to.  It really shouldn’t.  To help you process it, read Michael Hyatt’s post “Yes, You Can Stay On Top of Email” and keep your inbox near zero.

My Tips: Touch each message only once, if possible.  This means when you read it, you either 1) act on it, or 2) delete it or 3) put it on your to-do list or 4) archive it.  Really.  Use to unsubscribe from virtually everything.  Only continue your subscription to things you REALLY don’t want to miss… and have a spam address you give out to stores and sites you don’t really want to hear from.

5. Find ways to make the flow of social media information manageable.

Social media is a great way to get word out about what you love & what you have to offer.  But now we are subjected to the opinions of thousands of people before lunch.  How to manage it all?

Twitter Tips: I use Tweetcaster and Twitter lists (I have an OKC list and a church list for example) to manage twitter incoming posts.  But I don’t spend a lot of time reading incoming social media.  I used to do a lot more, but came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t producing a harvest of enough good to make it worth my while.

Facebook Tips: I have about 2800 Facebook friends.  That’s way too many to be meaningful.  I don’t want to know what everyone had for dinner.  So I use the “close friends” feature to limit the number of people whose posts I actually see and that show up in my notifications list.  Most of those are church people, family, trusted colleagues, and young men with whom I want to have influence.

News Tips: I don’t do very much news anymore because it didn’t make any real difference in how I performed in my everyday life — except to make me more distracted and less motivated.  I occasionally check local headlines from a local news channel’s app.  I use Google Now (mobile) occasionally.  They collate news stories that I might be interested in, based on my web history and searches.  But I keep it to a few minutes every couple days, while I’m stuck waiting for something/someone.

Posting Tips: I post primarily through Buffer, one of my favorite social media tools.  I use Buffer to post to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook at the same time.  Not very nuanced, I know, but ease of use is paramount for me at this stage.

Exit Question: What tips do you have for managing information overload in your life?  Speak up in the comments below or join the conversation on my Facebook.

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